SINGAPORE – Singapore caters to domestic tourism as its borders are largely closed to overseas visitors due to coronavirus.
“The tourism sector in Singapore was hit really hard as a result of this pandemic,” Chaly Mah, chair of the Singapore Tourism Board, said on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Singapore summit.
Singapore started the year strong with 1.69 million visitors in January – up from 1.62 million the same month a year ago. However, as authorities tried to control the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, travel restrictions were imposed. Immigration checks have sent the number down about 99% year-on-year in recent months, he said.
“Given that we are a small country and we do not have the benefit of domestic travel, what we are trying to do now is to encourage Singaporeans to visit some of our local tourist attractions,”
Authorities are trying to offset some of the lack of tourism revenue by enticing Singaporeans to visit attractions in their own country.
Singapore travelers generated about $ 34 billion ($ 25 billion) in tourism-related expenses abroad last year, and the goal is to capture approx. 10% of that amount from domestic travelers, Mah told CNBC’s “Street Signs.” Tourists who came to Singapore spent $ 27.7 billion ($ 20.4 billion) on receipts here last year, according to the then government of Singapore.
The Singapore Tourism Board launched the SingaporeRediscovers campaign in July to encourage Singapore residents to spend on hotels, eateries and attractions.
The government also announced that it will distribute 320 million Singapore dollars in “tourism credits” for residents to run local domestic travel expenses.
“The idea there is to get Singaporeans and locals to visit some of our local tourist destinations and rediscover Singapore,” Mah said.
“In order for us to have an authentic experience for our tourists in Singapore, we need our own Singaporeans who experience some of these local attractions so that they can tell an authentic story when they relate it to the tourists,” he added.
People wearing face masks run along Merlion Park, a major tourist destination in Singapore, over Marina Bay Sands during the Covid-19 crisis.
Maverick Asio | SOPA images | LightRocket | Getty Images
There are many attractions and experiences in the country that “Singaporeans take for granted but have never visited them,” Mah said.
He added that the tourist agency is also exploring cruises to nowhere to increase cruise traffic. Singapore Airlines is also said to be considering flights to nowhere.
“Since our borders are still closed now, the idea of flying to nowhere, cruising to nowhere is an interesting idea for a small city-state like Singapore,” Mah said.
Meanwhile, Singapore has introduced reciprocal green travel arrangements with several countries, including China and Malaysia. They are primarily aimed at business travelers and official travelers at the moment.
The city-state will slowly reopen its borders to more international travelers in a “conscious and calibrated way,” Mah said.